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The Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age

...1800-1815, from Pen & Sword

Title: The Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age
Author: Mark Jessop
Publisher: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-1-52672-037-5

I have been a fan of the Richard Bolitho novels for longer than I care to remember, so I found this new book on the Royal Navy covering the period from 1800 to 1815. Perhaps part of my enjoyment came from the way the author has started each chapter with a fictional setting of an individual in a scene that helps support the various elements of the wider story.
The book touches on all sorts of topics within the broad story of the Royal Navy in the era of Nelson and the Napoleonic Wars. The Battles of Copenhagen and Trafalger both feature, the war with America, and the fate of captured ships. There were wood shortages for new ship building so it looks at the use of new materials, such as teak. Navigation, battle tactics, signalling, all come into play as well as the various Naval ports such as Dock, now better known as Devenport. The costs for having the huge Navy at the time are huge, corruption was rife and needed to be tackled. Even finding enough crews for the large number of ships was difficult, a period when the Press still cleared many areas close to the South Coast ports.
The use of the fictional scenarios, mixed with the factual details of the times I found not only a nicely done style that made it interesting reading, but I learnt a lot in the detail that is woven into everything. Near the end it talks about the early use of steam power, so wind and tides would not be such an influence on navigation for warships. Wooden warships, large and small, were key to defending Great Britain, and protecting her maritime trade. Equally, in times of peace, the need to reduce the size of the navy and save money was as difficult then as it has been in more recent years. I enjoyed reading this one.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for the review copy.


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